Located south of Empress Mountain, Sheilds Lake has long been a favourite for outdoor enthusiasts and is a stunning place to spend an afternoon. You’ll want to leave early for the hike to get there so you can admire the ferns, wildflowers, Manzanita shrubs, arbutus, and Garry oak trees on the way. This lake is a beauty any time of year and was once known as the Lake of the Seven Hills after the mountains and peaks that surround it.
The north side of the lake gets plenty of sun, with a number of access points and an outcrop providing a nice view of the islands in the lake. In the right season, look for salamanders lining the shore just below the surface of the water.
On the southwest corner is a more open area with trace remains of an old lodge owned by the Alpine Club of Canada. At this clearing you may see what appears to be trail along the southern side of the lake, but beware that this trail currently dissolves into dense, largely impassable forest. The change in the trail may be because this lake has its shores in two different parks: Sea to Sea Regional Park and Sooke Mountain Provincial Park.
Because of its altitude, the air at Sheilds Lake can be up to ten degrees cooler than at sea level, and the lake sometimes sparkles with thin ice in January. In the mid-1900s, Sooke residents would make the trek up to the lake to spend the day skating.
Creeks & Watershed
Sheilds Lake is part of the Sooke River Watershed. Water from Sheilds Lake and its neighbour, Grass Lake, meet in an unnamed creek before flowing into the Charters River. It then moves onwards into the Sooke River.
There is a persistent rumour that Sheilds Lake was intended to be known as Sheila’s Lake, but this is not true. Sheilds Lake was named after the family of James Sheilds, who settled on the west side of the Sooke River in the 1800s.
The two-storey lodge built at Sheilds Lake by the Alpine Club of Canada in 1928 was a popular wilderness retreat in the 1930s. The lodge since burned down but remains can still be seen on the west side of the lake.
Smaller cabins were also built at Sheilds Lake by Scouts Canada and the Boys Club of Victoria, but little physical evidence of these structures remains.
For trail maps, access information, and much more, get your copy of the Lakes of Victoria, BC guidebook.